I always look forward to late November and the start of high school basketball season.
(And that food-based holiday that happens around the same time, but I digress.)
It could be that basketball is where I got my start back in the good old days — OK, it was 1999, or before many of the kids I now cover were born.
I got my first real taste of high-school athletics as the manager for my high school basketball team, my brief time as the lowest-ranked player on the junior-varsity boys tennis team my freshman year notwithstanding. As there was no use for a 5-foot-7, 135-pound point guard who couldn’t dribble, pass, shoot or defend, instead of that coveted varsity jersey, I was handed a video camera.
But so began an attachment to prep basketball that continues. And it’s not so much the sport itself — it’s really only my third-favorite sport to watch professionally behind football and hockey.
Maybe it’s the memories of all those early-evening practices throughout the week, getting ready for those two games that awaited on Friday and Saturday. Maybe it’s having watched so many of those practices that the wonders of the motion offense and the triangle-and-two defense are ingrained in me. Or the atmosphere of a way-too-hot high school gym on a rivalry night, when you can’t hear yourself think and you can feel the bleachers (and occasionally the playing floor) vibrating beneath your feet.
It’s big shots and bigger blocks. It’s setting a hard screen or running the baseline for that corner 3. The picture-perfect box-out to prevent an offensive rebound or the free-for-all as players dive on the floor for a loose ball.
It’s the raw emotion of players and coaches on each possession in a close game.
Most of all, it’s the pursuit of that elusive region title, and the state title beyond. At this point of the season, with the first games having just been played Tuesday, every player on every team in Utah believes they can win it all.
(At least they’d better believe it if there’s a competitive bone in their body.)
So, good luck to all of Tooele County’s heroes of the hardwood this season. I’m looking forward to watching you all over the next few months, armed with my pen, notebook, voice recorder and a pulled-pork sandwich from the concession stand.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He plans to become a concession-stand connoisseur between now and March. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.